Artist O’ the Week: Seth Gordon

20 Apr
Seth Gordon

UNEXPECTED MAN director Seth Gordon

Seth Gordon, Associate Artistic Director of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, directs The Unexpected Man and shares his background as a director in this week’s Artist O’ the Week! 

SETH: I was born on Leap Year Day in New York City and grew up in the Bronx, living there throughout my childhood. My family was very involved in the arts and I was urged to pursue it from very early on. I took my first acting class at age ten and later attended New York’s High School of Performing Arts. I then attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where I was accepted as an actor but eventually switched over to directing. I stayed there beyond my undergraduate years and left with an M.F.A. in directing.

I found while at Carnegie Mellon that I was looking at plays not from my character’s perspective but from a larger view. It was getting in the way of my work as an actor, something I found myself enjoying less and less. It was my classmates, and some faculty, at Carnegie Mellon that suggested I look at directing. As soon as I tried it, directing a twenty minute play when I was twenty years old, I knew it was what I wanted to do. I love using my imagination to tell people stories that move them and enrich their lives. At Performing Arts and at Carnegie Mellon I learned to love the theatre, but I also learned that it was a skill as much as a passion. I learned how to learn.

I know Kenn McLaughlin from when our times in Cleveland overlapped several years ago. I was associate artistic director of the Cleveland Play House, and part of my job there was supervising the work of a group of playwrights who lived in the Cleveland area, including Eric Coble. Kenn and I stayed in touch about Eric’s work and other things, and we would occasionally run into each other when he would return to Cleveland to visit. We started talking about a play for me to direct at Stages and The Unexpected Man is something I’ve been enchanted by since I saw its English language premiere, in London, years ago. Kenn’s love for it came as immediately as mine did.

The Unexpected Man is a love story, but a very different one from most. The characters are a bit older and more distinguished and erudite than those normally associated with a love story. Yet one’s vocabulary and reading list does not place limitations on one’s ability to feel.  One of the wonderful things about theatre is that it allows people to experience, vicariously, things they wish they could experience in their own lives, or perhaps things they have experienced, but if only they could have experienced it in that way. If only they could have said those things, in that way. The Unexpected Man features a man and a woman who, I believe, are representative of many of our audience members, thinking, feeling, saying and experiencing things that will be familiar, and ideal, at the same time.

I hope people will be entertained and moved. And, I hope they will think for a few moments about the critical moment in the lives of the play’s characters that they witnessed, and how it might apply to their own experience.

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